McDonald's is Removing Artificial Ingredients From Its Burgers — But What Does That Mean for Your Health?

In an effort to clean up its long-standing reputation as a fast food felon, McDonald's is revamping its burgers by nixing artificial preservatives from the buns, American cheese, and Big Mac sauce. The change impacts seven of the chain's classic burgers: the hamburger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger, the McDouble, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, and the Big Mac. McDonald's currently offers 11 burgers total on their menu, which includes the seven classic burgers, plus four specialty burgers.

"We know quality choices are important to our customers, and this latest positive change to our classic burgers demonstrates our committed journey to leading with the customer and building a better McDonald's," said Chris Kempczinski, McDonald's USA President. "From switching to 100 percent fresh beef in our quarter-pound burgers [earlier this year], cooked right when ordered, to removing artificial preservatives in our Chicken McNuggets, we've made significant strides in evolving the quality of our food — and this latest positive change to our classic burgers is an exciting part of that story."

What does this mean for your health?

The Golden Arches nixed sorbic acid from its cheese and calcium propionate from the buns. While sorbic acid is GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the FDA, some people may experience an allergic reaction when consuming foods that contain the artificial preservative, such as burning or itching of the skin, Jim White, RD, ACSM Health Fitness Specialist and owner of Jim White Fitness&Nutrition Studios, tells us, who also said there's no conclusive link between calcium propionate and health issues.

The Big Mac sauce also got a makeover that highlights a simpler recipe without potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and calcium disodium EDTA. Potassium sorbate has shown to have genotoxic effects, while White tells us that there is a multitude of studies that show that sodium benzoate may cause health problems from hyperactivity in children to DNA damage (which can trigger cancer and/or cell mutation). "Too much consumption of calcium disodium EDTA can lead to kidney damage and low calcium levels," White says. "Also, some people report that they feel cramps, nausea, and vomiting, as well as have skin problems, when consuming foods with this preservative."

While more research must be conducted to achieve conclusive results regarding these artificial additives, McDonald's move is beneficial because these menu offerings will be able to be advertised as more natural and draw in a wider population of people, White says. "Removing these artificial ingredients will help people who are trying to eat more healthily and are conscious of consuming these types of ingredients in foods."

Just hold the pickle before ordering the new and improved Big Mac — the brined bite will still contain an artificial preservative.